Tag: personal

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

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For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient. First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps. Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

It has been seven weeks since our second son, I am calling him Pickle here, arrived into this world. He was born Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

During the two weeks leading up to his birth, I was experiencing prodromal labor, or more simply put very real contractions that would not progress. Some days it would last for a handful of hours, other days it lasted all day long. Sometimes the contractions were mild and other times they were fairly strong. However, every time I thought: “Hey, we might be getting close…” the contractions would either slow or stop completely.

At our last check in with my doctor, she suggested we give Pickle the weekend to decide if he would come on his own and, if not, schedule to be induced early that next week. By this time, I was exhausted and agreed. So the induction was scheduled for 8am on February 6th, which happened to be my younger sister’s birthday. We went home and made all of the plans we needed to make. My in-laws were going to come over to watch our son, and my parents were going to meet us at the hospital.

Everything seemed all nice and neat, but I was praying all weekend long that Pickle would still come on his own. I tried whatever I could to encourage him. I bounced on the exercise ball, I raked our front yard, I did housework… Monday I really thought he would come. The contractions were more intense but never stayed at 5 minute intervals for a full hour. When I went to bed, the contractions stopped altogether. That night I had the best sleep I had had for quite a long while.

Proud Dada with our second son!
Proud Dada with our second son the day after he was born.

I awoke suddenly the next morning and happened to be checking the time when the first powerful contraction hit. The clock said 5:43am. I slipped out of bed, suspecting it might be labor, and decided to hop in the shower very quickly. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life and I had two more contractions while in there. It was clear these contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I woke Bradley up and told him we needed to get to the hospital. Since we were already scheduled to go to the hospital that morning, he asked: “How long do we have?”

“We need to get there as fast as we can,” I told him. He jumped in the shower while I called my parents. Then I dressed and he called his parents. We did not have time to wait for the in-laws to get to our house so we decided to take our son with us to the hospital and they could pick up him there. We grabbed the hospital go bag, loaded up the car, and were on the road. The contractions were getting stronger each time. Thank the Lord, the hospital is only five minutes down the road from our house. Bradley stayed in the car with our son, as he was sleeping, and I went inside to check in.

A very short time later, I was in the triage room getting ready for the initial examination. Bradley joined me there and, though my water had not yet broken, I was in active labor. The nurse helped me into a wheelchair and I was whisked off to a labor/delivery room. My parents were able to join us there. It was nice to have my mom there. Like with my first, I decided to labor without pain medicine, but since Pickle was bigger, it was a little harder. I also had quite a bit of back labor that made pushing more of a challenge. In that moment, I completely understood why most women get pain medicine and even epidurals. I was a bit dehydrated since we had come directly after jumping out of bed, and I had the worst uncontrollable shakes the entire time. (I did not have that with Peanut!)

Exactly three hours after I felt the first contraction, Baby Van Sant (Pickle) was born! He was immediately laid on my chest and we snuggled for quite awhile. During my labor and delivery, the hospital’s computer system went down so the staff had to chart everything old school. That meant we were able to stay in the L/D room a lot longer than usual before being moved up to the recovery ward. My older sister, who was working that day in the Emergency Department, stopped by for a quick visit. After such a fast and intense experience, it was nice to relax. I ended up with a second degree tear and quite a few stitches and even just the thought of the wheelchair ride was painful.

Proud Mama holding our little Pickle.
Proud Mama holding our little Pickle before we were discharged from the hospital.

Eventually we were moved upstairs to a nice private room. My parents helped us settle in, gave me some food to eat, and then left to let us bond with Pickle and rest. The peaceful atmosphere did not last long. The nurse came in to help me use the bathroom and check my postpartum bleeding. I passed a rather large clot and the volume of blood was enough to concern the nurse. She brought her supervisor in to have a look and they decided to call my doctor back to the hospital. (Her office is, fortunately, two minutes down the road.) By now, both Bradley and I were getting worried.

My doctor arrived quickly and proceeded with a physical exam. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life… and mind you, I birthed two babies without even a tiny bit of pain medicine. I remember screaming and crying. It was decided that the best course of action was to send me to surgery, be put under local anesthetic, and have a full examination to find the source of the excessive bleeding. Though the word was never mentioned by anyone, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about postpartum bleeding is hemorrhaging and that is often life-threatening.

In tears, I grabbed Bradley’s hand and asked him to call my parents. He did and then called his parents to let them know what was happening. Then he held my hand and said a prayer. Pickle was taken to the nursery.

Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother.
Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother. He kept shouting: “Baby! Hi, Baby!”

I was helped into a wheelchair (yet again) and wheeled back downstairs. It was all very surreal as the doors to the surgery ward opened and I saw the medical team waiting for me. Everyone was very nice, friendly, and smiling but at the same time there was a certain quickness to their actions and words that was serious. Bradley gave me a kiss and then I was taken into the operating room. I admit, I had many thoughts flash through my mind, some of which went like this: “Dear Lord, I don’t want to die. I’m not ready and I cannot leave Bradley to raise Peanut and Pickle on his own.”

I was given a local anesthetic that numbed me from the waist down (aka epidural!) but left a tingling in both feet. It is the weirdest sensation, and once I was lying on the table in that very cold room, the uncontrollable shakes returned. The team was very professional and nice. Someone got me a ton of warm towels and covered me thoroughly from the waist up. Besides the shakes, which had my teeth chattering badly and my arms flopping around, it was actually quite pleasant to be all wrapped up in those warm towels. I could feel the examination but it was a very light pressure and there was absolutely no pain. I am not sure if they ever found the source of the excessive bleeding. I do know the doctor removed something from my uterus, put a few stitches in my cervix, and re-stitched the outside some as well.

When it was all said and done, I was taken to a temporary recovery room for the anesthetic to wear off. Bradley, my parents, and my older sister rushed in as soon as they were allowed to. I know I was a little out of it… Kind of loopy and having a slightly hard time pronouncing my words. I was just relieved to be out of surgery and praying everything was alright. My dad said: “Don’t you ever do that again!” And my older sister was quite upset at me, too.

In that moment, I knew, looking at the mixture of worry and relief on Bradley’s solemn face that this experience was terrifying for the both of us. Praise the Lord, nothing serious was wrong but it easily could have been. I was glad to be taken back upstairs and reunited with our little Pickle.

Pickle… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our wonderful blessing, born on his aunt’s birthday.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, ESV

 

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

It has been a little while since our last Project: Organization update, and I’d thought I write a few lines. We have been extremely busy over the last week and a half. We volunteered with the Vacation Bible School at our church every evening from Sunday through Thursday, and Friday morning we left for a weekend trip to San Diego to help support my parents’ Lesson Book Ministries.

Therefore, not as much was done around the house as we would have liked. However, I like to tell Bradley that as long as we get a little bit done every day or every few days, we are making progress! With that type of a positive mindset, we were able to accomplish a few things in spite of our very busy schedule.

We were able to go through most of the storage bins that were crowding up our office. We put books we are keeping on the bookshelves in no particular order yet (that will come later) and set aside others for donation. We got rid of quite a bit of recycling and trash, and ended up with a few empty bins that we can now use to store more important things! One day while I was at work, Bradley neatly stacked the remaining bins against the far wall and now the office feels more open and you are not afraid of running into things. We still have a lot to do in there, but this was a huge step in the right direction!

Bradley took quite a bit of things to a thrift store and also surprised me with finishing tidying up our back patio, which we had started a few weeks ago when we cleaned out the shed. He moved our patio chairs up to the folding table and straightened some things. It looks much better!

We are nearly done with the re-organizing of the master bedroom. After doing a lot of hunting at thrift stores and box stores for decent beside tables and not finding anything that fit our needs and were in our price range, we stumbled upon a cute end table at Target. I went online and discovered that they were having a sale so we purchased two. We ended up taking advantage of two discounts (a 15% off and a 10% off) and free shipping, which saved us so much money. The end tables arrived earlier than we were expecting last week and so we had the boxes sitting in our living room while we did VBS and went to San Diego.

Last night while watching an old western movie, we assembled the first end table. It was very sturdily built and easy to put together, though it took awhile as we kept pausing to watch parts of the movie. So one table is done and nicely located beside the bed. It is the perfect size and color, and I cannot wait to organize the drawer and lower shelf. We are hoping to assemble the second one tonight or tomorrow tonight.

We have not had time to make much progress in the nursery yet, but we have some time. We did find the perfect curtains at Ross and some artwork for the walls. We just need to paint before we start hanging things ups. Some of the old decor (artwork, etc.) that we purchased second-hand in the last two years when the room was being used as a guest room, will be re-donated to thrift stores for someone else to enjoy.

That reminds me! We need to finish putting together our baby registries and start sending out the Baby Shower invites.

 

Our “Project: Organization” list:

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat (ON HOLD)

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables Purchased and delivered! One bedside table has been assembled. One more to go!
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint walls
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate – progress: 40%
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet onto it
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
Preparing for an Arizona Summer

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

With a due date at the beginning of September, I will be experiencing my last trimester during the peak of a blistering Arizona summer. Though a little early, this weekend is forecasted to reach high triple digits! It will probably be anywhere between 114°-116° degrees just Saturday alone. Though we, hopefully, will have a dip in temperatures towards the middle of next week, I am not looking forward to the rest of the summer.

To survive the summer heat, I am trying to prepare myself — both mentally and physically.

Water and lots of it!

Here in Arizona, especially in the summer, it is highly encouraged for everyone to carry water with them whenever they go out. My husband is always so diligent in never leaving the house without both of us having a bottle of water. Now that I am pregnant, staying hydrated is even more important.

I found that it was especially difficult to drink enough water while at work until I discovered that our break room now has an ice machine. I have not used ice on a regular basis in about two years, but being pregnant and being a little hotter than usual, I was having a hard time drinking room temperature or even slightly chilled water. Now I keep a plastic cup on my desk filled with ice, and I just refill it from my water bottle whenever it needs. I also refill the ice any time it is all gone, which gives me an excellent reason to leave the desk and walk around the entire floor.

Two bonus points for finding little ways to exercise throughout the day! 😉

Sun Protection

I also plan to wear a big floppy hat and/or use an old parasol when going out into the sun. The floppy hat was given to me years ago by my mom, and I love it! I might need to get a more formal looking floppy hat for work purposes, though. The parasol is quite old, not that pretty, and was given to me just recently by my mother-in-law. Since I tend to have meetings on the other side of campus a few times a week that require me to walk anywhere between a quarter mile to a mile, I am keeping the parasol under my desk at work. It may look hideous, but it does its job go keeping the sun off of me perfectly. (I tested it out Tuesday!)

Warm in the office, cool outside.

When it comes to choosing the proper clothes for an Arizona summer, I unfortunately have to face a dilemma that many Arizonians can relate to. Our offices are kept at barely 70°, and if the AC vent blows the cold air down on you (as it does me), then you will be very cold for about eight hours a day. You will have to dress in either pants or longer skirts and mid-length sleeves, perhaps even a cardigan or light sweater, just to not freeze. Then the moment you exit your office building, you are blasted with 110° or more heat! You would prefer to be in shorts or a knee-length skirt and a light, sleeveless top.

Now think about adding to this dramatic temperature fluctuation the fact that you are very pregnant, run a little hotter than usual, and maternity clothes tend to have a lot of additional fabric and layers that normal clothes do not: belly panels, low-cut V necklines that require a camisole underneath. With some of my maternity tops and bottoms, I have 3 thick layers of fabric around my middle. No wonder I end up feeling overheated some evenings!

So the problem I face over the next three months as the thermometer creeps over and stays above the three digit mark is finding maternity clothes that are:

  • warm enough for the cool office
  • cool enough for the hot outdoors
  • professional enough for the office
  • comfortable enough for… Well, you know. I am pregnant!

I have a feeling I’ll be wearing cotton shirts with dress pants and a sweater at work, dresses and loose skirts to church and events, and exercise shorts and baggy T-shirts when at home. I must admit that I am dreading the heat.

I already have a little hand fan that I carry in my purse and have used quite often over the last few months. I think I will also start carrying a bandana that I can soak in water and wrap around my neck if I get too hot.

Comfortable footwear

I have been able to continue wearing my usual footwear up until this week. Last Wednesday, I had an unexpected meeting come up that required me to walk about a mile in shoes that are not meant for walking long distances. If the meeting had been properly scheduled ahead of time, I would have worn appropriate shoes, but I was intending to be at my desk all day and wanted shoes that looked “cute” with my outfit. I ended up with a very bad and painful blister on my pinky toe that made the next couple of days miserable.

This week, I have switched to wearing tennis shoes every day. It looks extremely dorky, especially with the knee-length skirt I wore yesterday, but comfort is more important than fashion. Over the next few weeks, I might go shopping for a more office-appropriate flat walking shoe, but a part of me does not want to spend the money on new shoes when my tennis shoes (old and gray and not professional-looking in the least) will do.

If you are a mother, were you pregnant during the summer? If so, how did you survive the heat?